Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dirty Projectors and tUnE-YaRdS – November 15 at Le National

In a sort of Cagibi coming-out party, Merrill Garbus happily shared the Bird's finest offerings with new and old fans Sunday night. I could attempt to describe her staggering vocal skills, but instead I'll let Drew Nelles: "sometimes she sounds like a eunuch, sometimes like she’s laying down a reggaeton track, sometimes like she’s disembowelling a zebra on the savannah." Garbus often explores all three roles in a single track, while also laying down multi-layered drum loops and ethereal harmonies with ease.

Chances are she could have other people doing these, but it's more fun to see her create full drum beats one morcel at a time, and churning her sung parts into a kind of oral synth. Once, it sounded like a second snare part was a bit off, but with the full beat realized, it became one of the set's most danceable tracks (since she was simply laying down the opposite hand's contribution – forming an backbone akin to acoustic Animal Collective).

It was nice to see half the headliners (Angel, Dave, and Brian) bobbing enthusiastically to the side of the stage. Like the Dirty Projectors' sound, Garbus' little guitar was mainly clean, but turned to a bruised distortion with enough attack. The accompanying men in white offered cute harmonies compared to her powerful wail, and coordinated dance moves to boot. Party on!

Dirty Projectors
It's easy to justify seeing this band multiple times – especially in indie, talent and experimentation are rarely matched to such a satisfying degree.

In this post-album tour, the band switched up the set list (which had remained fairly consistent over the summer), starting with tracks from the U.K.-only 12-inch and "Cannibal Resource," on which Dave Longstreth employed noticeably more distorted tones and new parts. These ended up being a theme of the evening, as his racing right hand sometimes gave way to minor bumps and blips. This is all relative, however, as you'd be hard-pressed to commission anyone to execute these parts' intricacy played with similar proficiency.

Trowing in Bitte Orca closer "Fluorescent Half Dome" into the first third of the set was a nice touch, Brian McComber's dynamic drumming more pronounced than ever. Afterward, Longstreth settled into his new role as a frontman of a Le National-worthy band, offering stage banter beyond monotone "Thank yous" for the first time this year. Plus, it was funny. Fielding two comments at once ("We like you" and "I have to pee"), he reciprocated the first ("Yep, we really like being here too") and responded to the second with a story about having to leave a Harlem Globe Trotters game when he was a kid ("When you gotta go you gotta go").

The band also took advantage of the headlining slot to re-imagine Bitte Orca tracks with new arrangements, most notably a semi-acoustic version of "The Bride," proving that Nat Baldwin is not lugging around his double-bass in vain. "Two Doves" also had a greater calming effect later into the set (as opposed to opening it), following thunderous renditions of "Gimme Gimme Gimme" and "Thirsty and Miserable." Of all the highlights, however, the Solange-inspiring "Stillness" suffered from guitar troubles and even minute pitch issues, though as always, Amber killed the finale. Overall, Sunday night's set found the band exploring their new role as a bigger-than-Sala act with a longer, re-assembled set showcasing their winsome mix of the deceivingly steady and potently ornate.

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